NAZARETH – On Sunday, June 27, 2021, H.B. Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, presided over the annual Mass on the “Peace Day for the East”, as well as the blessing of the Icon of the Holy Family, in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
A Mass was also celebrated in each one of the countries belonging to the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs in the Middle East, following the annual Mass initiative launched by the Council’s Episcopal Committee “Justice and Peace”, on the occasion of celebrating the 130th jubilee of “Rerum Novarum”, the encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891.
Bishop Yousef Matta began his homily by speaking about the city of Nazareth, where the angel appeared to the Virgin Mary to convey God’s will to humanity, “the salute of Peace to Mary was the first step in reconciliation between God and humankind. Over the centuries and decades, the Church remained faithful to the establishment of the principle of peace, in an invitation to preserve the human dignity, freedoms, and rights of every human being, as well as ensuring and preserving peace in their life”.
The Bishop added: “Peace is not only a gift that we receive, it is also a work that we build together in order to be true peacemakers. For this reason, we must first educate ourselves on the virtue of reconciliation, that is, the inner healing of each of us, and then begin with solidarity, cooperation, and fraternity, actively working in society with an alert conscience about the realization of heavenly justice, especially for the weak”.
During the Mass, Patriarch Pizzaballa blessed an Icon of the Holy Family, inlaid with relics from the Basilica of the Annunciation, as well as consecrating the Middle East to the Holy Family. The icon is scheduled to go on a pilgrimage from Lebanon, pass through the countries of the East until it reaches Rome towards the end of the year of St. Joseph, on December 8, 2021. From Rome, the Icon will travel back to the Holy Land where it will remain.
In a message to the Catholic Patriarchs of the East, Pope Francis wrote: “The Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary to whom you have chosen to consecrate the Middle East, represents well your identity and mission. First of all, it safeguarded the mystery of the Son of God becoming flesh, it was constituted around Jesus and because of Him. Mary gave it to us, through her “yes” to the angel’s proclamation in Nazareth, and Joseph welcomed Him”.
Pope Francis added: “The Consecration to the Holy Family also calls each of you to rediscover as individuals and as a community, your vocation to be Christians in the Middle East, not only by asking for the just recognition of your rights as citizens originating in those beloved lands, but by living your mission as guardians and witnesses of the first apostolic origins”.
At the end of his message, Pope Francis addressed the Christians of the East, saying: “Be truly the salt of your lands, give flavor to social life, eager to contribute to the development of the common good, according to the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church”.
On December 8, 2020, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis announced the consecration of this year to St. Joseph. This came on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.
Patriarch Pizzaballa had previously sent an invitation to all the patriarchs and bishops to participate in this prayer, as well as to the faithful.
Concelebrating the Holy Mass were Bishop Yousef Matta, Archbishop of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and the entire of Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholics; Bishop Yaacoub Afram Semaan, Patriarchal Exarch of Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan of the Syriac Catholics; Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, Latin Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem, Fr. Hanna Kildani, Latin Patriarchal Vicar of Nazareth; Fr. Marwan Di’des, parish priest of Nazareth; Fr. Rafic Nahra, Patriarchal Vicar for the Vicariate for Migrants and Asylum Seekers, and several other priests from the various Churches of the Holy Land, in presence of Religious Men and Women, and the faithful.